Sunday, November 30, 2014

Just what makes a "Serious Skater?"

Normally I'm at the rink when it's early morning and quiet, or during general public hours, and so I typically don't see much of the staff most of the year. But then Ice Show happens and I suddenly see a lot of everyone. I suddenly go from living in my own little skating world to being in the thick of everyone! I overhear a lot, and I talk a lot.

A friend came up to me laughing, saying a coach had excused himself from a conversation with the words, "I have to go, I have champions to teach!"

Oh lordy, did we have a good laugh over that humdinger! Champions to teach? Well, do forgive us simple plebians for taking up your precious time, oh godly one! I'm still giggling. Doubtless he is excited over the idea of going overseas to a big comp and all, but the choice of words and tone is classless at best. Humility is a virtue.

So, if there are indeed "Champions to teach," then why waste time with anyone else? I've heard it a lot, that adult skaters won't "go anywhere" in the sport, so why bother at all? Who wants to spend their lives teaching crossovers to beginners when they have visions of being on TV behind the boards at the Olympics as the announcer says, "And there is their coach! He's so effin' talented!" Why bother with skaters who are just recreational, or just rink guards, or just the costume stitchers, or not really all that talented, when you can focus on the kids who will get your name in lights? You know, the "Serious Skaters."

There are two kinds of theatre professional. There are those who do it for the love of themselves: they only take roles or jobs that make them look good and "advance them" as professionals. These people are the biggest dickwads to work with. They are always flouting their resume as "proof" of their artistic merit and how great they are. Meanwhile, everyone else is running around going crazy because Mister Big was too busy talking about how great he is to get the light plot done. (Not a hypothetical scenario. Happens ALL. THE. TIME.)

Then there are the people who do it for the love of the art. They don't mind working in little broken down storefronts on a shoestring, because they can do their art. And they're grateful to be able to do their art. They work the all-nighters, they smile, they're patient and never once do they bring up that one really cool thing they did in Germany.

Mister Big may actually get to Broadway. It happens. And we all roll our eyes and poke each other remembering what an ass he was on those calls.  You can get to your goal of being "famous" or what ever, but the legacy of being a dick will follow you forever. Trust me.

Same thing with coaches. Check in with the beginner classes, and you'll see the same group of cheery people endlessly teaching crossovers to flight after flight of beginners, season after season. Because that's what they do. Artists in their own right, eliciting the first few crossovers from a wobbly beginner makes them smile. As it should, because I remember those first attempts!

Then there's the occasional dude stepping in, who makes a big deal about either "having to teach" the pre-free kids, or that he was so super generous to give an hour of his precious time to teaching them. There's your Mister Big. Mister Big who blows into lessons whenever and without regard for anyone's time but his own. Mister Big who is going to remind you about his "better" skaters at every opportunity, as proof of his great talent. (But wait, he didnt coach them until a year ago, isn't that right? Shhhhh...)

You can try to work with Mister Big, but be wary. He's the first to dismiss people as "weekend hobbyists" and give them a less quality lesson because of his judgement on their prospects of making him look like a better coach. As in, who's a serious skater and who isn't.

How can he tell? He can't. He's not you, he's just some random guy who feels qualified to make a judgement call on something he can't understand anyway. I've started to realize that some people can skate all their lives and never really *get* skating. And some people skate for an afternoon and they light up from some place inside and ask me about lessons and blades, and I light up too and we talk for an hour about it. Because we get it. We might not know how to do a rocker, but just being out there, doing crossovers, is an incredible blessing and a gift.

A Serious Skater isn't someone that Mister Big has blessed with his attention, and an "Unserious Skater" isn't someone who Mister Big has dismissed as a weekend hobbyist. A serious skater is someone who likes going out there and feeling the wind in their ears and smiles at every skill learned and mastered. It's not the skates you're in or the clothes you wear, the tests you take or the comps you skate. It's not your level or your ambition or your Olympic potential. It's your love. And love of just being there and skating isn't something the Mister Bigs can understand.

I remember a conversation I had with coach in summer, just before my test. I told him that my speedskater friend noted I was skating with more confidence, more determination, ever since March. And that made me really happy, because confidence brings bravery, and brave makes me do better things. He nodded and said, "You just needed to find what you wanted out of skating."  And I knew right then I had found my perfect Coach.

So, Mister Big can go to his big competition with his champions. Last night a had a five year old in wobbly skates step onto the ice and reach for me, saying, "Take me around, take me around!" And I did, because I recognized that light in her eyes. She was a very serious skater.

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